Do you feel any pressure to be a “super mom”?

whatever that is

I don’t.  The only time I even come across this concept is when I accidentally click on the NYTimes or spend too much time on blogrolls full of professional mommy-bloggers making their money pretending to be SAHM.  (Oops, hear that sound?  that’s the sound of us losing readership because we’re terrible horrible people who could never make it on BlogHer. Whoops!)

From what I can tell it has something to do with being Martha Stewart + Sheryl Sandberg put together.  Not 100% sure there.  And not having an equal partner in parenting and taking care of the homestead, despite living with an adult husband.  Having a sparkly clean house definitely fits in there as a measure as your worth as a person.  Thank goodness nobody I know IRL ever talks about that kind of thing.  We would have to get a house-cleaner or something.

Maybe this is why people get weird about how much responsibility we’ve piled on our elementary schooler.  Maybe I’m supposed to be taking care of all that stuff under the super-mom rubric.  Meh.

This is kind of like that post where we asked if baking was a *thing* in reality or just on the internet.

I was flipping through mommy blogs recently and felt like I’d seen every single topic before and had already posted a reaction post, like 2-4 years ago.  Some of my reaction posts though aren’t very polite to post on people’s sites who are clearly hurting because the patriarchy is making them believe stupid things.  Still, I kind of wish I could.  WTF is up with people’s entire feelings of value and worth being wrapped up in whether or not their house is clean?  Oh wait, we already asked that two years ago.  Oh and Choice feminism, we’ve addressed you (we’re pro-, but not for the standard, why can’t we all get along reasons).  Women feeling like they have to say they’re not perfect, check.  Why we can thank our mothers for not feeling guilty for working…  And what is UP with all that guilt in parenting nonsense in the first place?  If you believe the internet, all women hate each other, are neurotic about the state of their houses, and are wracked with extreme guilt about their parenting choices (or are super defensive about not being parents).  That just doesn’t mesh with our reality AT ALL.  The internet is a super weird place.

Am I just oblivious and is this super-mom pressure really a thing?  Or is it yet another way the patriarchy introduces anxieties to women in order to make money off them?

96 Responses to “Do you feel any pressure to be a “super mom”?”

  1. omdg Says:

    I feel pressure to have three kids along with my physician scientist career. Perhaps this is all in my imagination, but it seems like ALL the uber-successful women in academic medicine whom we are told should be our role models have three kids AND are highly published AND are doctors AND have reached the upper echelons of medicine. All of them. Well, all three of them that I can think of off the top of my head. Of course who knows what kinds of support they had that enabled them to do this (I know one came from a wealthy family who provided childcare for them AND money for housing, another was married to a very successful businessman), and what kind of personal toll these things took (at least one got a divorce somewhere along the way). All of that is glossed over however. Of course all the man doctors who have wives that don’t work or have beta careers all have 3-4 children. It’s like you’re not a “real” mom with only one child. Or it’s like children are status symbols signifying just how perfect you are.

    And this is in addition to the people who think that having an only child is a terrible thing to do — and tell you so to your face.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t think I actually know anybody with exactly three kids other than my MIL (and her mother). Most people I know have 0, 1, 2, or 4 or more. The mode being 0 or 2 depending.

      The official Grumpy Rumblings stance is that you should have as many or as few kids as you want (and are able to have– infertility bites).

    • Alyssa Says:

      It seems that 3 is the new 2 in terms of kids. It used to be super common for everyone to have 2 kids, and now it seems like everyone is having 3, like that’s the definition of a “complete” family these days.

      I can’t count the number of times that people have asked “when” (not IF) we’re going to have a 3rd. Even when I say that my chances of having another stroke if I get pregnant is greatly increased, I get the “well, I guess that’s a good enough excuse”. Um…we’ve never wanted 3.

      It’s so odd to me that people are so judgemental about how many kids one has, regardless of how many — every number but what they have is wrong.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I don’t think that’s true though (3 becoming a new norm)– fertility is going down and not up in terms of the trends (in the US… I assume Canada follows the US, but don’t really know). Maybe there’s some upper middle class subset that’s having three. I don’t know enough about the heterogeneity within the trends to pinpoint which parts of the population the decline is coming from.

      • Contingent Cassandra Says:

        Two (or one) still seems pretty common in my circle, with the two arriving at once (twins) considered hard for the first few years, but overall not a bad thing given the realities of age and fertility (one of which is the increased tendency to have twins, even if one isn’t relying on medical intervention of one kind or another to conceive).

        My sibling and spouse have three, but that works out, since I have none (and sibling’s spouse’s single sibling has one) — taken together, we’re at replacement level. Also, sibling’s spouse definitely slowed (but did not entirely stop) career in order to keep up with three (we’re all in areas where daycare is high-cost, so daycare for 3 costs as much or more than many early-career jobs for liberal arts grads. That doesn’t, of course, take into account the long-term cost of lost work experience, but part-time work partly balances that out).

      • Leah Says:

        Fascinating. Growing up, my family had three kids, and almost everyone I knew had three kids in their family too. In the circles I currently travel in, the majority of our friends who are done having kids have two (or one). I imagine the number of kids families have might be influenced by their peer group. We still aren’t sure how many we want.

    • Flavia Says:

      Definitely agree about three being the new two. (Though there are also plenty with none or one, so it probably balances out overall.) Among my college friends alone, I know FIVE families with three kids. Growing up I knew hardly anyone from a three-kid family.

      There was an article a while back (probably in the NYT) about the new vogue for three or four kids among the very wealthy, because they’re such an obvious sign of prosperity: no worries about college tuition, probably a stay-at-home parent or serious full-time help, etc.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It is probably a good thing we don’t live with the wealthy! Middle class is pretty awesome, though I would like more money and more protection against the wealthy, should they ever notice me.

  2. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    I actually am neurotic about the cleanliness of my house. I think it’s gotten worse since I work at home- I’m here all day so I notice when things aren’t right. I have been talking about hiring someone to clean for years and I have someone coming over to give me a quote today or tomorrow. I’m so excited. I’ve been putting it off for so long, partly because I have convinced myself that I can do everything.

    I don’t necessarily feel pressure to be “super mom” but I do feel pressure to be a good mom. Of course, the definition of a good parent is different for everyone. I stay pretty busy so right now my “good parenting” goals are pretty simple: I try not to do any work or check my phone from 4:00 – 800 p.m. on weekdays. I try not to raise my voice unless entirely necessary. I try to be interactive, even if it involves playing a Hello Kitty game for an hour like we did last night.

    Honestly, all the baking and Pinterest stuff is just off the table for me. I make dinner for everyone each night and that’s all I can handle. I work during the day, make dinner so it’s ready when my husband gets home with my youngest, then we clean up. My husband does baths and we have an hour or two to spend together. I usually work from 8-9 p.m. and my only time for super mom stuff would have to be after that. No thank you.

    Sometimes I do look around and wonder how people make time to do the things they do. For example, I was recently at a family get-together where one person whipped out a bunch of scrapbooks they made during their scrapbooking girls getaway weekend. Who in the hell has time for an entire weekend getaway dedicated to scrapbooking? I think I just work too much.

  3. Alyssa Says:

    I don’t really feel pressure to be the perfect mom, but I do see/hear a lot of judgement on the topic. Especially this time of year with all the extra crap people take on to create a “perfect” holiday for their family.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Where from? IRL or the professional mommy bloggers or someplace else?

      • The frugal ecologist Says:

        I think it depends where you live. Certainly IRL here. Not among our close friends, but I see it a lot with my in-laws kids who go to private school. Upper, upper middle class (country club set) – over-the-top holiday crafts for kids, perfect baked goods etc. However a lot is store-bought.

        But man, I went to their elementary school musical and the costumes (every kid!!) were better than the costumes for my high school theater dept! And I went to a good high school!!!

        My explanation is smart women who have chosen to stay at home with the kids needing things to do, hence the supermom. I don’t know too many of these women personally so I don’t know if they are happy about being supermom or not.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Do you think that women doing crafts pressures other women to do crafts too? And if it does, whose fault is that? Or do you think that the women doing the crafts are directly pressuring other women rather than just by example?

        p.s. We’ve met some pretty unhappy former career women SAHM… mostly former lawyers. We blame the patriarchy. (But that’s separate from just enjoying and being good at art and crafts stuff.)

        p.p.s. At my DC1’s private school the art teacher is in charge of costumes.

  4. Tragic Sandwich Says:

    I wish my house were clean, because I feel calmer when it is. But Baguette has autism, which means that we have hours of ABA every night, and cleaning (which neither Mr. Sandwich nor I was ever all that great at) has just gone out the window entirely.

    I know people with clean houses. They’re nice people and good parents, too.

    But as for being a “super mom,” well, I don’t really feel that pressure. People don’t tend to criticize my parenting because they know that if they do, I will stab them with my eyes in ways they will never fully recover from.

    (The only time I can remember anyone even getting close to that was when I would mention Baguette’s pacifier–which she gave up on her own just like I knew she would–and sometimes someone would say, “I’ve heard that it can make it harder for them to nurse.” I would respond, “I’ve heard that, too. You know what I didn’t see? Any of the people who say that in my hospital room at 1 a.m. helping me to calm my crying newborn.” To which the universal response was, “That’s a good point.”)

  5. delagar Says:

    God, the sleeping wars. I’m so glad I’m past this, but the wars about how to sleep your child — whether you should co-sleep or whether co-sleeping was eeeeevil; or whether you should do the Ferber method, or whether THAT was eeevil; or whether you should put the kid in its own room at 3 months or 6 months or 2 years or whatever. Or whether if you DIDN’T do this (which as I recall was teaching the child “good sleep hygiene”) you were dooming them to bad sleep habits FOREVER. And therefore a Bad Mom.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      One of our most popular posts from google searching is You don’t have to sleep train. Because you don’t.

      I’m not sure which supermoms are supposed to do. I’m not sure the supermom articles address that part.

      • delagar Says:

        Supermoms are all supposed to do something different, depending on who you’re listening to! And every single expert is absolutely right, of course!

      • omdg Says:

        In my circle, only the baaaaaaaad selfish moms sleep train (see: un-natural parenting). Everyone else either co-sleeps and complains mightily about it, or has perfect babies who sleep through the night at age 4 weeks and can’t understand why anyone might want/need to sleep train. I find it completely fascinating (not to mention refreshing) that there are actually enclaves where the peer pressure is in the opposite direction. It just goes to show that in the end you have to tune out the naysayers and do what’s right for your family. Easier said that done sometimes, unfortunately.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, that’s most of the US, in fact. It’s only the upper-middle-class-blue areas that are dominated by AP instead of training.

        And hey, some of us cosleep/coslept but don’t/didn’t complain about it! (Don’t really mention it at all, in fact.)

    • Leah Says:

      My sleep issue is that my kid doesn’t want to be put down during naps. I wear her in the ergo while she sleeps. But I feel like a bad mom because her daycare teacher wants me to put her down for naps, as she doesn’t want to be put down at daycare either.

      I try to put her down, and her little eyes fly open. She needs naps. Heck, I need naps sometimes (or time to clean up, be an adult, etc). So I wear her so that she sleeps. Or, I wear her because I am out living life and not at home during nap times, and it’s awesome that she’ll still sleep for me.

      Thus, I feel like a bad mom sometimes because I magically can’t make my kid like sleeping in her crib at daycare or at home. She sleeps in there fine at night, but she just doesn’t like to nap much.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That’s ridiculous (feeling like a bad mom– stop that). Baby sleeping habits have nothing to do with being a good or bad mom. (Unless you’re torturing your kid or something, then you’re a bad mom, but somehow we doubt that’s happening.)

        Read Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent. Much of the world across time wears their babies to sleep. It’s no big deal. (And other parts of the world do other things– the human is an amazingly adaptable species.)

        We also went with the “nap whenever you feel like it” rather than “set naptimes” — there’s trade-offs. We never had to say no to social obligations because they conflicted with naptime and our babies would fall asleep whenever and wherever they were tired. But there also wasn’t a predictable 3 hour block of time every day like people who schedule get. We preferred the flexibility.

        Dr. Sears talks about how to put a baby-worn baby down in a crib for nap– the trick is you have to get them at the right point in their sleep cycle or they’ll wake up. There’s signs and stuff. (We never bothered though.)

        That said, our daycare ladies were able to get our kids to nap in a crib once they started daycare (we don’t even own a crib at home), and to nap at set regular times once they moved to toddler rooms. (Though our first stopped napping pretty early because ze didn’t need much sleep. Our second stays up late and naps instead.)

      • Debbie M Says:

        OMG, I know you can’t help how you feel, but I second the notion that inability to perform magic is not a good reason to feel like a bad mom. In fact, you have figured out away for your kid to get enough sleep even though she doesn’t like to nap at home or at daycare–that’s more of an amazing mom trait.

      • bogart Says:

        I know it’s easy to imagine that “I” would handle something differently from (and better than) how “you” do when I’m not the one handling it but — wait. Your daycare teacher works for you and is responsible for taking care of your kid because you’re paying hir to do so (directly or indirectly, right?). The problem here isn’t you or your child, it’s your daycare teacher. And I empathize with hir problem, I do. And, sure, a teacher has a right to make a request or to complain if something is REALLY an unacceptable problem, but just — no. As a parent you should absolutely do what works for you (in a situation like this where we’re clearly not talking about abuse, neglect, or even nuttiness) and your daycare teacher should deal, full stop.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        To add on to what bogart said– most kids don’t have a problem differentiating between what happens at daycare and what happens at home. I don’t remember how old your baby is, but she may be still at the age when scheduled naps don’t make as much sense as letting babies sleep when they’re sleepy. At all the daycares we’ve been at, the 0-walking room let kids sleep whenever they were sleepy (with nudges like cuddle time or swinging), and it was only in the toddler room when scheduled naptimes happened. And we’ve *never* scheduled anything at home but our kids have followed schedules at school just fine (with the exception of not needing naps pretty young for DC1, but ze was happy to read and be quiet). School and home are different places.

      • Leah Says:

        Oh, thanks for the support, everyone! I’ve been in a rough place recently — emotions still running high. Trying to decide where/how to seek help but unsure if I need help or just need someone to give me a break so I can feel like me more often. Teaching full time and being a mom is a challenge. I already didn’t have a good work/life balance pre-baby, as I often brought work home. Finding I can’t really do that now, so I’m working extra-hard at work and at home.

        The issue isn’t that she doesn’t sleep. She will sleep . . . but she wants to be held. So, when we put her down in her crib (home or daycare), her little eyes pop open right away. She’ll sleep when being held or in the swing/bouncy chair, but she’s starting to sit up, so the swing is a no go. We have her crib on a slight angle at home because she gets stuffy at night, and I wonder if she doesn’t like the flat crib at school.

        I do have the Dr. Sears book on sleeping, but I find him awful judgy. We cosleep when she’s sick but otherwise we all prefer to sleep separate (tho when sick, little girl loves to snuggle).

        She is 5.5 months old. I’m talking with her daycare teacher tomorrow about what they do there to try and help get a handle on things. But we are going on vacation, and I don’t want to be stuck at my parents’ house the whole time, so I plan to do plenty of ergo napping while we’re out and about. My parents live near Portland, Oregon, so I’m looking forward to a zoo visit and plenty of walking around the city.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I don’t know about the The Sears book on sleeping (and yes, he’s judgy), but The Baby Book has a half page of specific instructions on *when* and how to take a baby out of a sling to put it in a crib. DH used it to great effect with DC1. (I never bothered to put hir down when ze fell asleep in the sling, and DC2 didn’t like the sling.)

        5.5 is probably still too little for most kids to expect them to have set nap times. I think around 6 months is the earliest, and even then there are big developmental changes going on between 6 months and 9-12 months that completely mess up any attempt at scheduling. Which is probably why the good daycares we have experienced don’t introduce hard schedules until the walking toddlers room.

        Does your daycare have a papasan chair? A couple of the kids in DC2’s good daycare would nap in that because of breathing/reflux concerns. Something to talk to your doctor about at the next check-up.

        Hang in there! Parenting a baby gets easier and harder and easier again.

      • Leah Says:

        No papasan — I’ll check with the director about sleep rules. I can always bring something in if that helps. She loves to sleep in her rock n play at home.

        They’re all awfully nice there, and they don’t keep her on a set schedule or anything. She eats when hungry and sleeps when tired, tho she does have general trends/patterns when she hits these times. She loves being there (gets super excited to see her teachers), so I’m not worried about fit. I just want her to be healthy with sleep.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        “She eats when hungry and sleeps when tired,”

        That *is* healthy with sleep. If only we could keep doing those things as adults!

      • Zeeba Says:

        My friend had a baby like this, so she hired the neighbor high schooler to come over and just wear the baby. She would sit on a yoga ball, bounce until the baby was asleep and then sit on the couch and watch TV until baby woke up and hand her back to mom. She said it was the best $8/hr she ever spent and I think the highschool kid thought it was an awesome gig. Just sit there and watch TV.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Our kids both spent a lot of time sleeping on college students during their first 8-9 months of life. :)

      • Cloud Says:

        @Leah, my first kid wouldn’t sleep much as a baby unless she was held or in motion. Sometimes, it required both. I heard all sorts of horror stories about how I was destroying her sleep for life by not “fixing” it now, but couldn’t really get it to change. Mostly, we weren’t big on the sleep training methods that involved crying, but I did accidentally try one once when I left her thinking she was asleep, went to the bathroom, and she started screaming. By the time I got back to her, she’d thrown up. So we didn’t try crying methods. Just didn’t seem worth it to me, for that particular kid. We tried pretty much everything else. The only thing that made any noticeable difference was nightweaning, and even that was incomplete. (We did that at about 1 year old, I think.)

        Because of all the scare stories, I didn’t try cosleeping until she was over a year old. It changed our lives when we started partial night cosleeping. She’d go down in her bed, wake up after some number of hours, I’d bring her in with us, and we’d all sleep the rest of the night. Needless to say, the second kid got partial night cosleeping from a MUCH earlier age!

        Somewhere close to 2 years old, she started sleeping through the night in her own bed. This was not due to anything we did. At some point, she learned to go to sleep without an adult keeping her company. Her sleep is just fine now (she is 7.5), and has been for years.

        She never, ever napped like people said she “should.” She’d nap at day care, but weekend naps only happened if I took her for a walk or drive. She gave up naps early. Bedtimes remained a struggle until she started school (too much rest time at day care, I think), and now they are snap.

        It all seems interminable when you are in the middle of it, but unless you have some sort of actual disorder going on, the sleep issues will pass. My only specific advice is: ignore what other people say your kid “should” be doing and listen to your instincts and knowledge about what your kids actually needs. If the sleep issues are causing YOU problems, problem solve around that and just lie if any busybodies ask how your kid is sleeping.

        Good luck!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        ” My only specific advice is: ignore what other people say your kid “should” be doing and listen to your instincts and knowledge about what your kids actually needs.”

        Absolutely. This is also part of the Grumpy Rumblings Philosophy. I should start collecting these!

        (I don’t lie though. People have to deal with getting honesty when they ask me direct questions. Honesty and occasional lectures on the research base.)

  6. The frugal ecologist Says:

    This and LV’s post from yesterday both have me thinking about the role of patriarchy in all this. We have a clean house because my husband and I both function much better with a clean & tidy house. we tidy ourselves (equally) and we have a biweekly house cleaner. We would much rather spend our weekends doing things other than cleaning!

    I enjoy cooking and crafting particularly for holidays etc. I think any pressure I feel is self-imposed (not enough hours in the day to do all the things that I want to do). But I don’t think this reflects on me as a parent. My husband also has more things that he wants to do than time to do them.

    Now that I’m thinking of it more of my wants/projects have to do with kids or home my husbands. Not sure what that means…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’ll have to check out LV’s post. Was it on that stupid book on joyful cleaning that’s come out? [update: yes it was] There was a bizarre Modern Mrs. Darcy post on it with equally bizarre comments: . It is insane how many people are caught up in this cleanliness determines whether or not you’re a good woman thing.

      WOW, I just looked back on the post, and the author of the post deleted two of my comments, one politely (though a bit passive-aggressively) suggesting to another blogger that she shouldn’t call her mother a hoarder on a public blog, and that hoarding and clutter have nothing to do with each other, and a second that was completely and totally polite but said that procrastinating doing something you enjoy rather than something you don’t enjoy means that you will never actually get the thing done that you’re procrastinating from, and most of us need to get the thing done! And apparently now I go straight to moderation on that blog.

      Well, whatever. I’m not her target demo. I should stop hitting mommy blogs. It’s all Ana’s fault.

      And I guess that explains all the bizarre comments! The not bizarre ones must get deleted!!!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Update: She says they weren’t deleted, which is weird because one of them (the one about hoarding) was responded to before it disappeared.

        Second update: She says they were removed because her assistant found them to be offensive.

      • Laura Vanderkam (@lvanderkam) Says:

        Thanks for linking. It was quite a book. I’m in nesting mode at the moment, but still not much decluttering going on. As for the super-mom thing, I’m not even sure what that is, though since my kids are watching TV while I’m reading blogs, maybe that’s evidence I’m not.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        NYTimes or Time or someplace did a thing on it that inspired this post the other month (we’re getting to the end of a blog queue). It made a small kerfuffle at the time– one of those women are so pressured things.

        We also have a post reacting to the “cleanliness as a metaphor for your life” idea, but we’re waiting to post it until long after the person who wrote the original post forgets about it.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        A quick google says the supermom backlash was all over the media and internet this summer, which is probably when this post was written.

  7. xykademiqz Says:

    Having multiple kids has cured most of my anxieties that I had about parenting. If I had only one, I’d probably still think that all I do or don’t do will scar him for life and destroy his chances of becoming a president or an astronaut or whatever.

    Years and two more kids later, here’s what I know: kids are their own people, from the start. If your kid sleeps well, you are lucky. If he/she doesn’t, that doesn’t mean you suck. Some kids love to sleep a lot, some don’t. Our first didn’t, our younger two do. I don’t think it’s my awesomeness that makes the younger two sleep. It’s probably my narcoleptic genes, if anything. Kids have interests, affinities, and a character from a very young age and in my opinion they will become who they will become, there’s actually remarkably little you can do to mold them into something they are not (unless you want to do some serious harm). You need to provide love, security, food, shelter, education. And more love. Then they go on to become whatever they were supposed to become.

    One of my proudest moments was when my Eldest, who’s a freshman in high school, said how he’s much more chill (not cool, just relaxed) than his friends. He says everyone around him is stressed out and not knowing who they are or what they want; he says doesn’t understand the struggle, because he knows exactly who he is and what he wants. That kid is way more chill and adjusted than me now, or ever! I guess I didn’t do so poorly with this parenting thing…

    Being a supermom? The thing is that motherhood and homemaking are not core parts of my identity at all. I don’t derive a sense of worth (or worthlessness) from either. Being a scientist and generally an achiever in the intellectual sphere are what defines me, and when I feel doubtful about these qualities, that causes me existential crisis. But baking, cooking, homemaking? Whatevs. I happily buy food to bring to potlucks, because my work is my priority and I am not leaving work to cook for someone’s middle of the week potluck. If I like you a lot and the potluck is on the weekend, then I will make something. Otherwise, there’s my trusty debit card.

    One funny thing is that people who come over for dinner are always surprised how well I cook because I never make a big deal out of it. One woman seriously told me that I didn’t look like someone who could cook. I just chuckled. I guess that answers the question whether or not I am a super-mom. Apparently, I don’t look the part!

    One thing I would like is to be less lazy to clean around the house, because I feel like I live at a postapocalyptic-movie set. But it’s just one of those things that will have to wait till I have more time, energy, a smaller house, or older kids who won’t trash the place in 2 min flat.

  8. chacha1 Says:

    Being happily non-reproductive, the whole mommy perfection pressure thing goes right past me. Also I do not read anything that could be described as a “mommy blog” – this blog is the only one I read where childcare etc is ever discussed.

    But I have a (potentially controversial) theory. And this theory is, Americans in general, but especially upper-middle-class Americans (which I think fairly describes most lifestyle bloggers), live for the most part very encapsulated lives. They do not meet or interact with a broad variety of people. (This would be particularly true if one parent were a stay-at-home parent, and especially if that parent were the female in a male-female pair, because I believe it’s pretty well established that it is the female who drives social interactions in most long-term hetero relationships.) And therefore in order to meet the natural need to have a “tribe” Americans pretty much force themselves into whatever is the norm in their particular capsule.

    Also: most humans (not just Americans) are naturally attracted to the other humans who are most like themselves, and seek to create tribes from like-appearing, like-seeming, or like-minded humans. If the above theory holds, then this natural attraction reinforces a tendency to homogenize the social group.

    And finally: most humans are aspirational. They want the bigger better thing; they want to be seen as having or doing the high-status possessions or activities. And they very, very rarely drill down to their own deepest values to examine whether what they think they want is REALLY what they want. So they end up aspiring to things that can be, in some cases, actively self-destructive – like trying to be a top medical professional with a spotless home and a well-satisfied mate and multiple well-indulged offspring without hiring help for any or all of one’s domestic arrangements.

    As to what extent the patriarchy plays, well, SAHM are – I would bet – exposed to about 20x to 30x the amount of media and advertising as women with jobs outside the home. All this media shows wives as uniformly thin, fully made-up and hairdressed, in spotless houses with gigantic kitchens and perfectly-groomed yards, and/or serving multi-course meals in Traditional Home dining rooms, all while wearing white pants.

    Women who want to feel good about themselves and their families should spend more time reading books, and less time on the Internet or watching TV.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I buy into that theory! Especially for those “SAHM” blogs selling equal amounts patriarchy and product! Mommy guilt sells. I wonder if they’re doing it on purpose or if they’ve just hit on that by chance…

      Do they know that they’re harming people, or do they really believe they’re helping? Not that motivation really matters so much as outcomes…

      • chacha1 Says:

        honestly? I suspect that they TELL themselves they are helping people, but what they are really doing (deep in the lizard-brain subconscious) is reassuring themselves that their choices are valid.

  9. CG Says:

    Well, I have exactly three kids, so there you go. My husband has a job with long hours and significant travel, so I do the lion’s share of the home/kid management (which reminds me of the study that found that when the woman in a couple was a doctor, her job was seen as the more flexible, and when the man in a couple was a doctor, his job was seen as the less flexible–I suspect the same is true for academics). I remember a teary conversation just after our second was born (my 2nd year on the tt with my department making noises about how I wasn’t publishing enough, and at the time his job involved being out of town every week) in which I was telling him that I was at the absolute limit of my bandwidth. He told me that I probably had to be superhuman to do what I was trying to do. So I guess I am, because my bandwidth increased enough to feel mostly fine about how things are working on the average day. And we added another kid.

    I have many, many smart, interesting friends who have quit their jobs and I do sometimes look longingly at their lives and think how much simpler and less stressful my life would be if I were not strongly pulled in two directions. But since a significant amount of my self-identity is tied up in my job, and my kids seem perfectly happy with our current balance involving a beloved babysitter, I keep plugging away.

    Apropos of the the previous discussion about people who “do it all”, I don’t. I like to cook and eat good food, so I spend a lot of time on that. I outsource cleaning and some laundry. I am comfortable with a certain level of disorganization, so my house is usually fairly clean but often not picked up. I have (unofficially) not worked Fridays since I was a graduate student, so that’s when I get downtime with any kid who’s home and get some errands done. I suspect I work less than many people with my job. I’ll know soon whether it was enough, but even if it wasn’t I don’t think I could have or would have wanted to work more.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think online I know of a few other people who have 3 kids too, though to be honest, I’m not really good at tracking these things! IRL it’s easier because they have names and faces and stuff.

  10. Cloud Says:

    Well, I certainly don’t feel any pressure to keep my house clutter-free- as my most recent post attests! I do sometimes feel pressure about parenthood or career, and yes, that sometimes comes in the form of comments in real life. However, I’ve noticed that those comments only bother me when they touch on something I was already feeling insecure about. I suspect that may be true in general- people can be remarkably poor at realizing that what is true for them (e.g., “a clean house makes me more productive”) is not necessarily true for everyone (leading to “everyone would be more productive in a clean house”). So people say all sorts of random, borderline judgmental stuff to us. It only really hurts when it hits a point we were already insecure about.

    That is 100% theory, backed by zero research. All I can say is that it feels true in my own life.

    So I think there are two ways societal pressure can lead to this feeling that you need to be a supermom (or whatever)- first by instilling those insecurities, and second by making a dominant narrative about what a “good mom” is and the like. If you never got those insecurities in the first place or have worked on them and overcome them, then the dominant narrative can flow right off you. For instance: a lot (A LOT) of PhD scientists I know (online and IRL) have insecurities about non-academic career paths being substandard, i.e., for people who couldn’t cut it in academia. For whatever reason, I never internalized that message, and so I hardly notice the people who say things that imply my career path is second rate. Another person who did internalize the “academia is best” message can hear the exact same thing and feel horribly pressured by it.

    I did pick up some insecurities about parenting, although I’ve mostly worked through them now. But before I had, I was pretty susceptible to the “good mom” narratives. I don’t feel as pressured now as I did in the earlier days of motherhood. I don’t think it is that the messages have stopped coming in, it is more that I’ve stopped taking delivery of them- to the point that I don’t even notice them unless I stop and really parse something that someone else has flagged as having hurt them.

    The thing that I think happens more online than in real life is that people form communities of like-minded people, and will then feel comfortable expressing things that they might not express if they knew there were other sorts of people “in the room,” as it were. So I completely believe your observation about this being worse in some corners of the internet than it is offline.

    I don’t think the community forming is necessarily a bad thing, either- after all, one of the reasons I stay so active online is that it is literally the only place I’ve been able to find a community of ambitious women who don’t feel like they have to hide their ambition. I have one or two similarly ambitious friends IRL, but we tend to socialize in groups that include people who are really put off by open discussion of our more ambitious goals and the like.

    God, this got long. Sorry for writing a short essay here. Clearly, it was a thought-provoking post!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Your essay length comments are welcome any time!

      re: non-academic jobs, that is definitely right. And another thing that I’ve noticed is that once people actually make that jump, many of them realize how foolish that academic halo was! They’re doing real work that’s valued outside of the academy for more money. (Currently prepping #2 for an interview!)

      It is interesting the sorting that people do online. We reviewed a scholarly tome on the topic of motherhood online a couple of years ago. There’s a lot of research still to be done out there!

    • chacha1 Says:

      This is a great comment. I completely agree re: online activity – mine is frequent, but the corners I play in are distinct (and in one case private). :-) They are corners where people say interesting things even when the topic isn’t one that directly affects my life, and where basically nobody says anything hateful.

  11. Debbie M Says:

    No pressure to be a super mom. I did have some pressure to be a mom (from my mom who wants grandkids). And I’ve felt some pressure to get a higher status job, though I’m not sure where from. It just seems like someone with so much brains and education should be making a difference in the world and not just be a bureaucrat for hire. Also, I feel pressure from a friend of mine who gave me his hand-me-down piano for free to get it tuned. That’s pretty much it.

    But I’m pretty socially clueless. Plus I don’t watch commercials (unless they are on the Superbowl or my Facebook friends post them). I agree that all TV has impossibly perfect housing except “Roseanne.” My friends who have kids sort of disappeared from my life except for my sister, so I’m mostly out of the loop there. I read a couple of mommy blogs, but they focus on frugality or other financial issues or cooking and are not gross.

    In other vaguely related news, my mom has three kids. She wanted six, Dad wanted zero, they compromised on two, then my aunt got pregnant and my mom got jealous and talked my dad into one more.

    • xykademiqz Says:

      She wanted six, Dad wanted zero, they compromised on two, then my aunt got pregnant and my mom got jealous and talked my dad into one more.

      This made me lough out loud!

      I have 3. I never thought I’d want more than 2, because no one had more than 2 when I was growing up, but I ended up wanting a 3rd. My DH wanted 2 and it took me a year to convince him to go for No 3. He says he gave in because neither his brother nor my sister have any kids, so our kids are the only grandkids for both families. In reality, I know he gave in because I was relentless. ;-)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        DC2 is kicking our collective posteriors. I’m pretty sure ze broke the mold. (Though when ze was a sweet little baby and did things like sleep from time to time, I was almost convinced to have a third because our first two are so perfect! Heck, we were walking around San Diego on a conference/vacation at one point and *multiple* people said in our hearing that a baby like ours makes them want to have babies. Ze soon outgrew that stage.)

        DH really wants to get snipped, but, re: our discussion about paranoias, I am convinced that right after he gets done with surgery, I will die in a horrific car accident and he’ll need to remarry and it will be someone who wants kids with him and he’ll have to get the reverse surgery and.. and … and… (He argues that he can always freeze sperm as a precaution, but that just points out how silly my paranoias are.) So he stays unfixed as a sympathetic magic.

      • xykademiqz Says:

        So he stays unfixed as a sympathetic magic.

        :) Sounds like he might be saving your life!

      • Cloud Says:

        My husband has an irrational fear of hospitals and needles (probably comes from some procedures he needed as a very young child, but that’s just a guess). He was one of those expectant fathers who had to be ushered out of the delivery room when they came to give me an epidural. (Aside: the anesthesiologist who talked him through the unexpected discovery that I was going to have a c-section the second time around is a HERO. I sent him a thank you note later.) That he gets a flu shot every year is a testament to his love for me. And he has to look away.

        So.. he won’t get fixed. This was a point of annoyance for me until I hit perimenopause and discovered that hey, birth control with a little bit of estrogen helps those symptoms a lot. I cannot imagine how horrible it would be if I’d bullied him into getting that vasectomy and then discovered I actually wanted to be on birth control.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I share with him an irrational fear of anesthesiologists. Thank goodness my childbirths were both fast and relatively painless.

      • hush Says:

        But, Mr. Snarky, there are urologists who do “no-needle, no-scalpel” vasectomies that don’t require the assistance of anesthesiologists AND that are not done in “hospitals.” And they are (usually, but not always) reversible. ;) I know, I know, it’s a tough sell!

  12. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    Not a mom, and definitely not a super-housekeeper of any sort. I’ll freely admit that the chaos in my very small apartment is well beyond the level that allows me to function optimally at this point, and addressing that is on the winter break “to do” list, but that’s purely for my own comfort. I’m pretty sure I’ll always be on the messier/more chaotic end of the housekeeping spectrum, and, since I’m generally pretty good at ignoring the chaos and getting on with life, that doesn’t strike me as a problem. I do actually like thinking through the causes behind chaos great enough to bother me, and coming up with systems to avoid (or at least postpone) it, but, like many who have commented here, I’m definitely in the “keep it down to a dull roar and carry on” camp. Maybe because I’m *not* a mother (and almost never have anyone else in my home space, though I aspire to have/keep it in shape where that’s possible), I don’t feel a lot of pressure to be neat(er). There is, however, the one old family friend who I owe a dinner invitation, but who isn’t getting one anytime soon, because I know she’d disapprove (I think she’s getting worse with age, however, and probably had a problem or two — explained in part through a difficult childhood — to start with; she’s also under the impression that the grandmother I most closely resemble, whom she knew, was a very neat person. Take it from me — the person who cleaned out her house, both intermittently in her last years, and after her death –; she wasn’t. But it’s interesting how this family friend assumes that somebody she liked must also have been very neat, like herself).

    After years of popular press about the perils of clutter, hoarding, etc., I finally saw an article in Salon the other day about the problems with the opposite extreme: . Maybe the tide is turning?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Wow, that is a pretty terrifying post (up there with Grandma the poisoner, but at least Grandma was dead). We’ll have to link love it. Extremes are scary.

      Though I’m also not sure how I feel about people sharing things about their obviously mentally ill family members under their real names and stuff.

    • chacha1 Says:

      that salon post is incredibly sad.

      • Contingent Cassandra Says:

        It is sad, and yes, the privacy/confidentiality/exploitation issue is a real one. It also addresses the business of throwing out kids’ stuff without their knowledge/permission from the kid’s point of view (not just the bed, but littler stuff early on, which she describes as akin to gaslighting. Not that that necessarily justifies outing her mother’s mental illness in print, though there’s a long tradition of memoirs that do just that, with names.)

  13. hush Says:

    “…blogrolls full of professional mommy-bloggers making their money pretending to be SAHM.”

    Wow. I did not know SAHM fakery is A Thing. Huh. How does that play out, I wonder?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I believe they start as stay-at-home moms, but then their stay-at-home-mom hobby blogs (/books/speaking tours/etc.) take off and become businesses. It’s not that different from early retirement bloggers that have made it big. Really, the only difference is the gender, right? (If you read PF blogs, you’ll notice that a woman making money via blogging and writing about personal finance will call herself a freelancer/self-employed blogger, but a man will call himself early retired!)

      • Contingent Cassandra Says:

        Whaddayaknow? Phyllis Schlafly was a trailblazer (not that all the people who perform the role of SAHM in public are as conservative as Schlafly, but she did make quite a thing of preserving women’s traditional domestic roles while holding down quite a busy public life herself).

  14. Requin Says:

    I’ve never felt any pressure to be a super mom, though I don’t know why. Maybe because my dad and mom shared parenting and household duties back in the 70s when that was fairly unusual. (My dad stayed home with two toddlers while my mom went to grad school, and then couldn’t get a job until he removed the information about staying home from his resume – he was helpfully told to do this at one interview by some jerk who said he would never hire a man who had stayed home to take care of his kids.) Maybe I’ve been able to internalize fewer messages about what women are *supposed* to be doing. Also, my kid isn’t entirely neurotypical and I have a very strong sense that we need to find what works for us, and “typical” advice will probably not work. So I can more easily ignore it as not applying to me. (Also starting a TT job with a baby meant, as far as I was concerned, a free pass on nearly everything. As the kid has gotten older and I’ve gotten tenure, I still feel like I have a free pass to ignore any “super mom” pressure.)

  15. gwinne Says:

    Pressure to be a supermom–whether one works for pay or SAHM–is a real thing where I live. A lot of homeschooling in my neighborhood. I try really hard (and am mostly successful) at not falling in to its traps.

  16. Revanche Says:

    Not a mom yet, technically, I guess, but while I think it’s a thing, it’s not my thing. I was just wondering why it seems that some moms feel the need to, once they’ve bitched about a thing their kid does, or even just shared a hilariously horrible thing, very quickly follow up with “Oh but ze’s worth it!!!”

    You could set your watch by it. Personally I thought we were just sharing anecdotes, not judging whether or not you love your kid enough based on how glowingly you share even their horrible gremlin moments. It gives me the uncomfortable feeling that the judge-o-meter is always on for those moms. And I say moms because I canvassed PiC and he has never heard that when talking to Dad friends and neither have I. Their kids aren’t perfect but those guys have the same matter of fact approach that we do: we’ll love the kid even if we don’t love the behavior or even like them very much 1000% of the time. They’re human, they’re going to run the range of whatever.

    On that note, as xykademiqz mentioned, I’d finally come around to the idea that yes, the kids are going to be who they’re going to be. You have some influence in shaping them but you can’t change their fundamental nature. It took 15 years of fighting with my parents to co-parent my TrainWreck sibling, and feeling all kinds of inappropriate angst and guilt for not being able to pull him out of his dive to the bottom. He was who he was from the very beginning and there was no changing that, no matter what we said or did.

    Doesn’t make me feel great about him, still, or the possibility that I might have passed along enough of the genetics that make that him over to LB but there’s nothing I can do about that!

    So even though I’m not enjoying this pregnancy at ALL, that doesn’t in any way reflect on whether I’ll love or be a good mom to this fetus who won’t get that foot the hell out of my ribs or has given me the rash that makes me want to set myself on fire. The circumstances suck but that feeling about the suckiness won’t be the sum of our relationship.

  17. Virginia Says:

    I don’t think I feel pressure to be a supermom. I pay someone to clean my house and my husband is an equal partner in parenting. The only area where I feel like I am struggling is maintaining a good attitude. I think I may have depression, but I also have a stressful job. I feel like I come home grumpy and can’t be the happy and relaxed mom I want to be.

  18. bogart Says:

    Yeah … no. I mean, I am a super mom (I mean that. It’s something I’m good at. But in boring and unglamorous ways.), but I am not a super-mom.

    I come at this from such a ridiculous position of privilege that it’s not even funny — right? I mean, I’m a mom to one kid, he’s an “easy” kid — so far, at least — I’ve got a SAHH, my very capable and helpful mom lives in the same town as we do, and we have access to and can afford any number of excellent extracurricular programs (I know: the horror! Outsourcing child engagement!).

    So, right, I’m not crafty — but I fully embrace that. Someone else can help my kid craft (if he wants to craft, that is — and in fact he does). I pack (yes, I still pack) boring school lunches, but DS eats them (and when he asks for something different, which is rare, I change things up.

    Plus honestly I think those at the end of the SES spectrum where I am, and OK, it’s not really an “end,” but it’s a comfortable spot well toward the high end past the midpoint, are more likely to give their kids too much and to devote too much attention to and do too much with/for their kids, than the opposite. Boredom is underrated (no, really)!

    And no, I don’t frequent those websites. If I land on them (rare), I click away.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      So nobody is tell you you’re doing it wrong?

      • bogart Says:

        I’m sitting here scratching my head, and … no. Or maybe I’m not listening (or hearing them). I will say my mother recently fussed at me (and took my son and bought him new shoes) because his shoes had holes in them. But while it’s true that we had not noticed this problem, (a) this is actually my husband’s responsibility to fix; (b) our son hadn’t complained nor did he otherwise seem ill-affected by the shoe issue; (c) I congratulate myself, because — hello! Our son is wildly active and wears the heck out of his shoes. Go kiddo! Also (d) I am very lucky to have a mom who will take DS shoe shopping (and to be clear, we “bought,” i.e., paid for, the shoes — but she noticed the problem and addressed it. And naturally I thanked her because of course I am grateful. But not in a way that involves me thinking I was somehow failing as a mom by not noticing and addressing this problem.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        No, it sounds like you’re more in my situation– wondering where all this pressure people keep talking about on the internet is coming from.

        From what people are saying here, I’m thinking it’s coming from small upper-middle-class enclaves in blue states. Possibly bi-coastal! You know, the people who hang out with NYTimes reporters socially.

      • becca Says:

        bogart- my kid goes through a lot of shoes, and I was feeling a teensy bit guilty over how long he was in the last holy-toe shoes. There are a relatively large number of kids around here who cannot afford new shoes, and we were closer to that state last year than I’d like… mostly I’m worried somebody at school might notice holy-toes and he might get charity shoes that could have gone to somebody who actually needs them.

        But kiddo gets emotionally *attached* to shoes, and I still remember fondly the glow-in-the-dark Keds I had about his age that I insisted on wearing for an eternity, so I guess he comes by it honestly. I think he goes through them about every 2-3 months… I shall have to adopt the mental frame of “Our son is wildly active and wears the heck out of his shoes. Go kiddo!”. This is a highly beneficial way to look at this.
        Technically, what has probably happened is the growth in size has slowed sufficiently we could invest in quality shoes. But my happy memories of those Keds makes me get whatever cheapo shoes make my kid happiest in the store, even if I know I *could* buy something from ll bean with a lifetime warranty.

        I do not feel pressure to be the NYT’s supermom. I do over-analyze the heck out of parenting things though, and have occasionally felt craft related guilt (my kid *won* a gingerbread house kit in a raffle, how can I *not* do it with him? even if it drives me nuts to yell at him to not eat All The Decorations before I can use them??? /neurotic)

      • bogart Says:

        @Becca, haha, I’ve shopped for shoes with DS like, once (maybe twice?) and as with pretty much any shopping exercise my main goal is “get me out of here, get me out of here, get me out of here!” Whereas DS has, you know, opinions about what’s comfortable and so forth (which, fair enough). So! The first pair he finds that he can tolerate, we buy, with no regard to quality or appearance. So … yeah, picking quality (or “nice”) shoes is not a priority. I think he’s owned one pair of “nice” shoes for when he was part of a family member’s wedding party, and those I’m pretty sure we ordered over Ebay and told him he only had to wear once — though they turned out to be OK, actually.

        (I really place very, very little value on clothing 99.2% of the time. If it’s comfortable, clean, and decent, we are good to go, and that goes for me as well as DS. My work “uniform” consists of not-blue jeans (they don’t have to be real denim jeans though most are; all my pants must have the pockets typical of blue jeans, both front and back, and ditto for skirts, because life is too short not to have decent pockets and I can’t be bothered to carry a purse) and a t-shirt or blouse (summer) or sweater (winter), and — done. And DS’s are some flavor of sweatpants with pockets (or “nicer” pants but they have to have an elastic waist + drawstring because he is too scrawny for them to stay up otherwise, and adding a belt is an annoying extra step + pull-over-head shirt(s) with no buttons. And DH is pretty much the same — he does wear a belt! — but of course he manages his wardrobe.)

  19. bogart Says:

    I guess? I mean, I live in a blue enclave in a red state, so you might think there’d be some nearby, but I could be obtuse. And, we established long ago that I’m a satisficer extraordinaire, so that may make it harder to convince me of (or even alert me to) any allegations that I’m doing it wrong.

  20. Practical Parsimony Says:

    I had a child in 1968, another in 1970, and a third in 1975, so there was no internet, hence no mommy-bloggers or competition online. It baffles me. However, I may have been the supermom. We had lots going on with the kids, and I was on top of it. I had several friends who were openly hostile because my children won spelling bees, dance contests, talent contests. One year, the church had an Easter Egg hunt, with three age categories. I had a child in each category and they all won. People thought my children should give up their prizes to other kids in the church. When newspapers photographers showed up at any dressy event, my children were in the papers the next day, chosen for pictures because of their absolute beauty and the way I dressed them. Other women accused me of paying to get my children’s pictures in the paper. Maybe if they treated the Community Concert as a special occasion and combed the kid’s hair and did not take them in their dirty school clothes, someone would want that child in the newspaper.

    I never felt like I was in any kind of competition or had a need to be the best at whatever. I just did my best or tried to do my best. But, I was in a service club and won an award four years in a row. One of my friends snidely remarked that it was just a popularity vote. I never got it. Thank goodness there were no blogs then.

    I had the boy and girl I wanted. Then, when I wanted one more child, husband was against it. So, I went back to school. He put the house on the market a month after I went back to school, and the week of final exams he had to have me day and night. I did not pay attention to when I could get pregnant because I was busy and stressed, but obviously he did. Still, I made the Dean’s List. Yes, I got pregnant and moved at the same time AND was moved to a town with no university near by. Then, I gave birth to the third.

    I made all our clothing, cut everyone’s hair, cooked, baked and people loved the clothes and haircuts, etc. Many of the other mothers seemed so jealous. I would not have had time for a blog!

    The only pressure I felt was to do better for my children. My mother thought I did a great job. My children were very happy, so I could not do more or less. I was never competing, just doing things I felt improved my children’s lives and made us all happy. .

    In my opinion, scrap booking is pretty worthless. My daughter feels sorrow that she is not a good mother because none of her photos before digital are in albums except for the first year of her older child’s life. Nothing I can say will console her. That makes me sad.

    • bogart Says:

      See, this loses me two places. One, the “dirty school clothes” thing — I mean, sure, we put on clean clothes, but I’d way rather encourage my kid to run around (and get dirty) than, you know, not. Obviously that might not happen at a concert, but it also might en route to or from. And we pretty much don’t own dress clothes for my kid, though that also reflects our social set (e.g. when we attend “Church” it’s a Quaker meeting, so sweats are well within the range of appropriate attire).

      And I have never in my life heard of “winning” an Easter Egg hunt and think I’d run as fast as I could from any such hunt that had winners? I thought the point was to find and enjoy/eat the things!

      OTOH, also not a scrapbooker and good heavens, no regrets there.

    • xykademiqz Says:

      Your husband sabotaging your school… He’s a piece of work.

    • chacha1 Says:

      PP, your “friends” were bitches. And having read before what an absolute dick your husband was, I am sorry you have had to deal with such toxic people for so long.

  21. Perpetua Says:

    I always feel like I’m missing something when I hear other moms talk about the guilt they feel about working/ leaving their kids. I never feel guilt about that, or about working, or about wanting things for myself. I feel sometimes though like I’m missing some gene that the other moms have. So yeah, I hear about the supermom stuff (from the internet and sometimes irl). I do think the competitiveness is real, and I’ve always ascribed it to patriarchal guilt for working mothers and too much free mental space for shams. I’ve on occasion been accused of acting the supermom because I like to bake. But I just like to bake. There’s nothing I can do about it. I’m not baking AT anyone. (or crafting or face booking or whatever).

    Three is definitely the new two and whether people think about it consciously or not, I think it’s about status (says someone who really really wanted three and not for status reasons, though I’m conscious of what it would ‘say’ about us if we had three).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      You sound like me! Though with me it isn’t a gene (the eye-rolling post discusses what I think it is– several generations of working moms producing perfect daughters can’t be wrong).

      Having lots of kids around where I live is still connected with being a low-income religious homeschooling fundamentalist or low-income immigrant. So definitely not a status symbol. Housing is cheap! Private schooling is not.

  22. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    If you click on the link to the Source: Births: Final Data for 2012, tables 1, 3, 18 pdf, then flip to table 9:

    It shows the live-birth order from 1980-2012 expressed as rates. You can see that the birth rates of 3 are actually pretty stable from the 1980s to now (and currently at a low, with highs in the earlier 2000s). Births of 4th children have been increasing. So really, this seems to be a story of more 4th children! (Also, we don’t know how many of those 3rd births become 3/4 or 3 out of more– this doesn’t give completed fertility over a lifetime, just completed fertility by the year of the survey.)

    Now, the number of women age 15-44 has also been increasing, so the Number of 3rd births has been increasing even if the rate has been pretty constant.

    And, again, we don’t have information by geography or socioeconomic status in this Table 9, just by race. That information would be pretty easy to break out by if I had the dataset these numbers came from. Probably the national vital statistics, which I think I did work with as an RA back in grad school, but I don’t remember where to get them (just that I vaguely remember they go back to the late 1960s). Maybe if I have some free time I can explore these a bit more for you guys, to see if all those “three is the new two” headlines are accurate. One of the papers did quote Ellen Galinsky who is an excellent scholar, so it might be faster to just see what work she’s done on the question.

    Update: looks like the data are here: But they’re annual and I’m too lazy right now to download, unzip, put into stata, and append! Even if I’m totally procrastinating from grading. (I *was* procrastinating by working on a grant proposal, but the computer guy needs to run a diagnostic on my work computer…)

  23. Leah Says:

    I try not to read any mommy blogs (as in, I don’t intentionally seek them out but sometimes click over from facebook). My friends IRL are all really supportive and kind. I still feel mommy-judged.

    That might be a personality thing. I’m awfully ambitious and have high expectations of myself. It’s hard not to want to do all the things.

    Come to think of it, I do have some braggy FB friends who like to list everything they get done while wrangling their 4/5 kids. Maybe I should enlist my clicker finger to do a little unfollowing . . .

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We would argue (as part of the Grumpy Rumblings philosophy) to cut your FB friends a little slack. They’re probably making those lists partly for accountability purposes.

      And some people are just able to get more things done for whatever reason. That has nothing to do with you! Learn what you can from people you admire and don’t worry about what you don’t care about.

      One day you will find that your daughter can do many things that other babies/children can’t do and you won’t be able to talk about it (except to grandparents and occasionally on anonymous blogs) because it makes other people feel uncomfortable. That’s not a fun position to be in.

      So don’t damn your friends for doing their best and talking about it. Let them be proud of their awesomeness too.

      Own your ambition, but remember it isn’t a competition against other people. It’s a competition against yourself, and one that you will always be winning but will never finish. Growth mindset!

  24. oilandgarlic Says:

    I don’t feel pressure to be supermom. I am pretty good about doing my own thing and not feeling competitive with other moms. Reading your blog helps, too, to keep things in perspective for me. I admit that sometimes I read too many aspirational blogs or magazines which start making me feel like I should be doing more in home, career and life. It’s not bad to have aspirations of course. One of the dangers is that when you’re skimming through multiple media sources (blogs, magazines, articles), the cumulative effect can be a feeling that you should be doing more of everything from cooking to crafts to career.

    I think the pressure is greater in higher/upper-income households. A friend of mine who is surrounded by wealthy friends and acquaintances (and where many moms stayed home) felt like she couldn’t be a good mom because she could not devote that time to kids, crafts, homekeeping etc..and afford the best private schools, summer camps and activities. In other words, she bought into the perfect super mom mindset and it was impossible for her to imagine parenting in a more relaxed way. In my real-life middle-class circle, there really doesn’t feel like competition or judgement. I’m not saying there’s no judgement but it’s relatively mild and most people just do the best and mind their own business.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I have often though that middle-class was a good place to be. (Though I still want more money. MONEY. But you know, being quiet and un-ostentatious about it.)

      Still, I don’t feel sorry for those poor rich moms, unless they’re trapped in abusive relationships or something. They can always start living a more middle-class lifestyle (even while keeping the benefits of housecleaning etc.), whereas people with less money can’t go the other direction.

  25. First Gen American Says:

    I have to admit that yesterday I was really hurt when I noticed a lady criticizing the Italian cookies I made while she was scarfing one down. I didn’t know her but she worked in the same office as some engineers I work with. They weren’t as good as my last year batch but not so horrible that I thought they should go in the trash. I ate a bunch and if they were good enough for me, and the technicians at work liked them, they stayed in. ..but it really really bugged me. Plus, I was mad for allowing myself to be so hurt by a stranger over stupid cookies. That didn’t feel like the patriarchy. It felt like a sad woman who was trying to knock someone down to make herself feel better. But this is the perfection peer pressure thing. Something that’s perfectly fine for most people gets nit picked by someone who manages to find the one cookie out of the 8 kinds I brought that wasn’t cooked to perfection. No guy has ever criticized a cookie of mine.

    But to clouds point, the only reason it bugged me so much was because my mom did the same thing to me while I was baking until I kicked her out of the kitchen. She was eating my cookies and telling me all the ways I can improve my recipes when she’s a HORRIBLE baker. For the rest of the time I was baking, I was second guessing myself and the process wasn’t nearly as fun as it usually is.

    All the homemaker pressure I feel is self imposed. I try to squeeze in homesteady type things as a way to feel like I am not just all about work work work. I don’t feel peer pressure to do it.

  26. MutantSupermodel Says:

    My mom and my grandma are the ones that give me the most grief about things like a clean house. My grandmother, who lives next door, hardly ever comes to my house because she claims it’s such a mess it gives her anxiety just being in it. My mother likes to come into my house and start cleaning (she does dishes and/or starts/folds laundry and puts things in piles). They are also the ones that want me to cook but I turned that around on them and they cook for us once a week. So I feel pressure that way. But these days I am a lot better about it than I used to be. People will tell me things like “I don’t know how you do it all (work, craft, etc.) and I tell them I don’t. I sacrifice things like a super clean house and homecooked meals so that I have the time and the energy to make things because I like to make things or to read because I like to read or to do silly things with elves for my kids because I love hearing them laugh in the mornings.

    Oddly enough, lately I feel more pressure to be a super nerd…

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